By Brad Gardner
Ray Emery got the call in the Blackhawks return to the United Center Friday night against the Calgary Flames, turning in his best effort of the season in Chicago’s second straight win. Goals from Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook turned out to be enough as the ‘Hawks held on to a lead in the third period for a 4-1 victory.
Duncan Keith, playing in his 500th career NHL game, opened the scoring 12:09 into the first period. Patrick Sharp sent a shot on net and Miikka Kiprusoff kicked out a juicy rebound into the slot. The Flames goalie attempted to play a shot from the closest ‘Hawk, but Dan Carcillo was taken out of the play by defenseman Scott Hannan. The puck continued out to Keith, who ripped a slap shot past Kiprusoff as he was caught out of position.
Despite a pair of power play opportunities later in the first, Chicago took the one goal lead into the intermission. Ray Emery was a big part of the lead as well, keeping Calgary off the board with a number of saves against traffic in front of the net.
Midway through the second period, Patrick Kane‘s line with Carcillo and Patrick Sharp had a momentum-changing shift with pressure in the offensive zone and quality chances against Kiprusoff. Carcillo eventually drew a high-sticking penalty against Roman Horak in front of the net, sending the ‘Hawks on their third power play of the game.
Brent Seabrook scored just 12 seconds into the ensuing man advantage to put the Blackhawks up 2-0. His slap shot from the blue line found it’s way through traffic, as Kiprusoff was unable to get his eyes on it with Jonathan Toews in position in front of the net and Patrick Kane drawing some attention by streaking across the slot.
Chicago carried the 2-goal lead into the third period, but Olli Jokinen cut the advantage in half at the 10:50 mark of the final frame. The Calgary center won the faceoff back to defenseman Mark Giordano, who skated the puck up the boards. Jokinen popped out into open space in the slot and hit the top corner off Giordano’s centering pass to pull Calgary within a goal.
After a handful of near misses throughout the contest, Viktor Stalberg finally potted a goal with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. Marian Hossa rifled a pass from below the goal line and Stalberg had an easy tip-in from the blue paint. The goal was Stalberg’s fourth of the season, all of which have come in the third period or overtime.
Patrick Kane made it a 4-1 final with an empty-netter at 19:56 of the third period.
– The Blackhawks iced the same skaters as the night before in Columbus, as Dave Bolland missed his second consecutive game after taking a shot off his skate. With Sami Lepisto and Sean O’Donnell scratched, John Scott lumbered through 9:42 in his third consecutive start on defense. He spent a decent amount of that ice time on his wallet, but did not directly lead to any goals. So there’s that.
– Ray Emery got the nod in the second half of the back-to-back, stopping 24 of 25 shots he faced. Emery was sound positionally and soaked up a lot of the Calgary shots he faced. His defense was spotty in the first, during which the Flames had 13 shots, but they were able to tighten up and allow just six shots in each of the second and third periods.
– Emery faced a handful of quality chances from the Flames top line, but it was the fourth line that applied the most consistent pressure throughout the game. Although a number of their chances were from a distance, the combination of Tom Kostopoulos, David Moss, and Tim Jackman accounted for nine of Calgary’s 25 shots on net.
– The Blackhawks penalty kill was able to stop the bleeding, even if Calgary only had one chance on the man advantage. That unit had given up at least one power play goal in four straight games coming into Friday’s match.
– Three stars… 3. Olli Jokinen, 2. Patrick Sharp, 1. Duncan Keith
– The Northwest Division-leading Edmonton Oilers will be in town to face off against the Blackhawks Sunday at 6pm central. It will be the team’s final home game before they head West for the circus trip next week.
In addition to covering the Blackhawks for TheThirdManIn.com, Brad is also the Blackhawks’ correspondent at HockeysFuture.com.